Maccabi Tel Aviv required a fourth-quarter run to avoid a shock defeat to Hapoel Gilboa/Galil on Saturday night, fighting back to record a 99-93 win at Nokia Arena to take a 1-0 lead in the BSL best-of-five quarterfinal series.
Gilboa led for much of the first three quarters, taking a 74-70 margin into the final 10 minutes. However, Maccabi would dominate the fourth frame, securing the victory with a 14-2 run (94-82).
Maccabi Haifa also moved into a 1-0 advantage on Saturday, beating Ironi Ness Ziona 78-67 at Romema Arena on the back of another sensational performance by Donta Smith.
At Nokia, Rick Jackson’s basket to start the second quarter gave the visitors a record eight-point margin (34-26), but Gilboa still trailed the yellow-and-blue by three points (54-51) at the break after Guy Pnini ended the first half with a three-pointer.
A 15-5 Gilboa run saw the visitors move back ahead (66-61) midway through the third period and Sharon Drucker’s men were in front by four points (74-70) with 10 minutes remaining.
However, a 14-2 surge (94-82) secured Maccabi the win in the series opener ahead of Game 2 at Gan Ner on Wednesday.
Pnini led five Maccabi players in double figures with 19 points, with Sylven Landesberg finishing with 18 points while Tyrese Rice scored 14 points.
Gerald Robinson had 27 points for Gilboa, which will draw plenty of encouragement from its performance, despite the dejecting defeat.
At Romema, Smith scored eight quick points to lead the Greens to a 10-2 gap.
Ness Ziona would come back to level the score at 15-15, before Haifa took a 25-19 lead into the second period.
Haifa began the second half with a seven- point margin (42-35), but Ness Ziona never gave up the chase, trailing by just three points (57-54) ahead of the final 10 minutes.
However, a late 11-1 run gave Haifa a 74-63 margin from which Ness Ziona was never going to come back.
Smith ended the night one assist shy of a triple-double, finishing with 25 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Adrian Henning added 16 points for Haifa, with Meir Tapiro scoring 15 points for Ness Ziona, which hosts Game 2 on Thursday.